Viktor Vasnetsov

Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926) was a Russian painter, illustrator, designer and architect active mainly in Moscow. His early paintings were chiefly of contemporary subjects, sometimes involving the urban poor, but from around 1880 he specialised in scenes from Russian history and legend, combining carefully researched details with a feeling for the romance of myth. [Ian Chilvers in The Oxford Dictionary of Art (1988, 1997, 2004)] He was instrumental in founding the Russian folklorist and romantic nationalist painting traditions.

Viktor Vasnetsov, Self-Portrait, 1868, Wikimedia Commons [Public Domain]
Born in a remote village called Lopyal in the Vyatka Governorate of the Russian Empire, Vasnetsov was the grandson of an icon painter and the son of an Eastern Orthodox priest with a love for philosophy and the sciences. Vasnetsov attended the seminary in Vyatka (now known as the city of Kirov) and thereafter, studied at the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg.

All of his works are characterised by sober, muted colours and a feeling of cold, damp weather. They, nonetheless, are simply exquisite. Check out some of them below:


Moving House by Viktor Vasnetsov, Wikipedia


Flying Carpet by Viktor Vasnetsov, Wikipedia


The Baptism of Prince Vladimir, a fresco from the Kiev Cathedral by Viktor Vasnetsov, Wikipedia [Vladimir the Great (958-1015) was the prince of the historic Russian city of Novgorod and the grand prince of Kiev, the current capital of Ukraine. He was a convert to Christianity from Slavic paganism. From 980 to 1015, he was the ruler of the Kievan Rus’ – the loose federation of East Slavic tribes existing from the 9th to the mid-13th century, cultural ancestors of the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian people of today. Here, Vladimir the Great is depicted in his baptism ceremony, the initiation ritual of Christianity.]


Bogatyrs by Viktor Vasnetsov, Wikipedia [A “bogatyr” (also known as “vityaz”) is a stock character in medieval East Slavic legends similar to the Western European knight-errant. The word “bogatyr” is derived from the Turkish-Mongolian “baghatur” – an honorific title literally meaning “hero” or “valiant warrior” or “the brave one”. In this painting, Vasnetsov has depicted three famous bogatyrs from the folklore of the Kievan Rus’ – Dobrynya Nikitich, Ilya Muromets and Alyosha Popovich.]


Bogatyr at the Crossroads by Viktor Vasnetsov, Wikipedia


Tsar Ivan the Terrible by Viktor Vasnetsov, Wikipedia [Ivan IV Vasilyevich (1530-1584), commonly known as Ivan the Terrible, was the Grand Prince of Moscow and later, Tsar of All the Russias. His personality was complex and his legacy is complicated. He was devout and intelligent, a patron of trade and the arts but suffered from mental illness and was given to bouts of anger. In one such fit, he ended up killing his second son and chosen heir Ivan Ivanovich.]


The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Viktor Vasnetsov, Wikipedia [“The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” are characters described in the last book of the New Testament in the Bible – Revelation (chapter 6, verses 1-8). The white horse is Conquest, red horse is War, black horse is Famine and pale horse is Death. In Christian eschatology (that branch of theology that deals with final matters, future state, end times), these four have been interpreted in a wide variety of ways.


Birds of Joy and Sorrow – Sirin and Alkonost by Viktor Vasnetsov, Wikimedia Commons [Sirin and Alkonost are enigmatic bird-maidens of Russian folklore.]


The Frog Tsarevna by Viktor Vasnetsov, Wikimedia Commons [Russian fairy tale. Read it here.]


Alyonuska by Viktor Vasnetsov, Wikimedia Commons [Russian fairy tale. Read it here.]


The Sleeping Princess by Viktor Vasnetsov, Wikimedia Commons [Russian fairy tale. Read it here.]


Ivan Tsarevich riding the Gray Wolf by Viktor Vasnetsov, Wikimedia Commons [Russian fairy tale. Read it here.]


10 thoughts on “Viktor Vasnetsov

  1. Wow! Exquisite is the perfect description. Love these. I particularly like Birds of Joy and Sorrow. I had no idea about this artist. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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